The following points highlight the two main rebellions of Shah Jahan and Mahabat Khan.
1. The Rebellion of Shah Jahan (1623-1626 A.D.):
The marriage of Ladli Begum with prince Shahryar in 1621 A.D. changed the attitude of Nur Jahan towards Shah Jahan. He was regarded the crown-prince of the empire, was a member of the Nur Jahan Junta, and was receiving all favours from the powerful queen so far. But now Nur Jahan desired that in place of Shah Jahan, the next emperor should be her own son-in-law, Shahryar, who could be a puppet in her hands.
Therefore, she planned to reduce the power and prestige of Shah Jahan. Her mother and father being dead by 1622 A.D., there remained nobody to put a check on her towering ambition to keep the power of the state in her hands even after the death of her husband. Shah Jahan also grew suspicious towards her.
Dr Beni Prasad has remarked- “In a single empire there was no room for two such masterful spirits as Nur Jahan and Shah Jahan.” Therefore, the conflict between the two became necessary.
The fort of Kandhar was besieged by Persia in early 1622 A.D. Jahangir ordered Shah Jahan to march for its rescue. Shah Jahan agreed to march towards Kandhar after the rainy season and demanded entire Punjab and the fort of Rohtasgarh in return. Nur Jahan got a chance to poison the ears of the Emperor because of the demands of the prince.
Shah Jahan was in the Deccan at that time and the enraged Emperor asked him to despatch the troops and the officers under his command immediately to the court. Another incident occurred at this very time which drove further wedge between the two parties.
Shah Jahan had asked the jagir of Dholpur from the Emperor and, believing that his request would be granted, despatched his troops to occupy it in advance. But Nur Jahan had already got this jagir transferred in the name of Shahryar from the Emperor.
When the troops of Shah Jahan reached Dholpur they quarrelled with the Faujdar who was deputed there by Shahryar. This meant further disobedience to the Emperor and that enraged him. Jahangir, therefore, ordered Shah Jahan to send all his troops to the court. It was refused by Shah Jahan.
Instead, according to Dr R.P. Tripathi, “he sent his envoy Zahid Beg with costly presents to Shah of Persia and started collecting supplies from Gondwana and the states of the South.” Jahangir promoted Shahryar to the rank of 12,000 zat and 8,000 sawar and deputed him to rescue Kandhar.
According to Dr A.L. Srivastava, Shah Jahan begged pardon after it but the Emperor assigned his jagir in Punjab including that of Hisar to Shahryar. But Dr Tripathi says that Shah Jahan wrote letters full of insolence to the Emperor and hatred to Nur Jahan.
Whatever might have been the truth, the fact remained that Shah Jahan did not obey the orders of the Emperor. Nur Jahan grew suspicious of the intentions of Shah Jahan and therefore, called Mahabat Khan from Kabul to the court and deputed Asaf Khan to safeguard the royal treasury.
The Mughuls failed to reach for the assistance of Kandhar in time and it was, therefore, occupied by the Persians in 1622 A.D. Shah Jahan raised the standard of revolt at the same time. Jahangir deputed Mahabat Khan under the nominal command of prince Parwez to suppress this revolt. He himself along with Nur Jahan reached Ajmer to be near the site of operation.
Shah Jahan proceeded forward from Mandu and made a surprise attack on Agra. He was, however, defeated by the Imperialists at Bilochpur near Agra early in April 1623 A.D. He returned to Mandu. Mahabat Khan and Parwez pursued him. Shah Jahan went to Asirgarh and lost entire Gujarat to the Imperialists.
He then went to Burhanpur and sought help from Ahmadnagar and Bijapur which was, however, refused. Mahabat Khan captured Burhanpur which was left unprotected by Shah Jahan. Shah Jahan marched to Orissa. It fell easily in his hands. He captured Bengal as well. He, then, proceeded to Bihar and occupied it including the forts of Rohtasgarh, Jaunpur and Patna. He next besieged the fort of Allahabad.
Mahabat Khan followed him to the North and forced him to fight a battle near Allahabad. Shah Jahan was defeated and forced to retreat. He returned to Ahmadnagar via Bihar, Bengal, Telingana and Bijapur. Mahabat Khan followed him to the Deccan. This time Shah Jahan received help from Malik Ambar of Ahmadnagar as Bijapur was fighting against him with the help of the Mughuls.
Shah Jahan besieged the fort of Burhanpur but had to withdraw due to timely arrival of Mahabat Khan for the rescue of the fort. Shah Jahan retreated to Balaghat and took shelter in the fort of Rohangarh. He fell ill there. His loyal officers started losing courage now. Even his most loyal officer Abdullah left him and became a hermit.
Shah Jahan now begged mercy of the Emperor which was granted to him. Jahangir gave him the governorship of Balaghat as well. In return, however, Shah Jahan surrendered the forts of Rohtasgarh and Asirgarh to the Imperialists and sent his sons Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb to the court as hostages for his good conduct in future.
Thus, the revolt of Shah Jahan failed. But, it troubled the empire for nearly three years. Various causes were responsible for the failure of Shah Jahan against the Imperialists. He started with wrong calculations.
He had expected that the Emperor would not be able to lead the Imperialists due to his ill-health; that Asaf Khan, his father-in-law and Diwan of the empire would come to his support; that all those nobles who were dissatisfied with the growing influence of Nur Jahan in the empire would come to his support; that other nobles would also join him afterwards because of his popularity as a successful commander; that the Emperor would not be able to collect as large a force as he himself commanded; and, that Kandhar, being captured by Persia, the Emperor would not be able to withdraw the imperial forces from the north-west.
In these circumstances, he was sure to get success against the Emperor but, all his calculations went wrong. The Emperor led the Imperialists; capable commanders like Mahabat Khan flocked to his standard; Asaf Khan did not think it wise to support Shah Jahan at that time; Shah Jahan failed to receive any support from the states of the South; and Persia did not threaten the Mughul empire any more. It resulted in the failure of Shah Jahan and he had to surrender unconditionally.
2. The Coup D’etat of Mahabat Khan (March 1626 A.D.):
Mahabat Khan was one of the most capable commanders of Jahangir. He was loyal to the throne but he was one of those nobles who did not like the increased influence of Nur Jahan in the administration of the state. Yet, when Shah Jahan revolted, he loyally served Jahangir and was primarily responsible for the suppression of the revolt. It enhanced his power and influence at the court.
Besides, he came in closer contact with prince Parwez. Nur Jahan did not like it. She knew very well that though Mahabat Khan was loyal to the throne, he was not loyal to her. She did not like closeness of Mahabat Khan with prince Parwez who could be a contender for the throne against her son-in-law Shahryar.
Therefore, according to Dr A.L. Srivastava, Nur Jahan decided to break the power of Mahabat Khan. Dr R.P. Tripathi, however, has attributed another motive for the action of Nur Jahan. He has expressed the view that the main enemy of Mahabat Khan was Asaf Khan who desired to destroy his power in order to strengthen the cause of his son-in-law, Shah Jahan for the throne. Whatever may be the correct reason, the fact remained that attempts were made by the royal court to destroy the power and influence of Mahabat Khan.
First of all, prince Parwez and Mahabat Khan were separated from each other. While Mahabat Khan was ordered to proceed to Bengal, prince Parwez was sent to Burhanpur with Khan-i-Jahan. Both of them accepted their new assignments.
Next, Mahabat Khan was asked to submit the account of the treasure and surrender all those elephants which were captured by him in Bengal and Bihar during the period of the revolt of Shah Jahan.
Mahabat Khan complied with the orders of the Emperor but could foresee the plan of his destruction. He, therefore, proceeded to meet the Emperor personally. At that time, Jahangir was on his way to Kabul and was camped near the river Behat in Punjab. At that very time Jahangir dishonoured Barkhurdar, son-in-law of Mahabat Khan and confiscated his property which further enraged Mahabat Khan.
When Mahabat Khan reached near the camp of Jahangir, Asaf Khan, Nur Jahan and larger part of the royal army had crossed the river but Jahangir was in his camp. Mahabat Khan met the Emperor, requested him for justice and asked him to accompany him. He pleaded that he was forced to act in this manner in order to safeguard the Emperor from the evil council of his relatives. Jahangir had no option but to agree with his wishes.
When Nur Jahan received this news, she blamed Asaf Khan for neglecting the personal safety of the Emperor and, much against the wishes of Jahangir, tried to cross the river and attacked Mahabat Khan. But her attempt failed. Only a part of the royal army could cross the river and that too was defeated and forced to flee by the Rajputs of Mahabat Khan.
Asaf Khan fled away while Nur Jahan surrendered herself and came to live with Jahangir. Afterwards, Asaf Khan was also forced to surrender himself. Thus, the Emperor, Begum Nur Jahan and Asaf Khan came under the tutelage of Mahabat Khan.
Mahabat Khan had no further plan. He had done everything by force of circumstances. Therefore, according to the plan of the royal party, he proceeded towards Kabul with the royal family. Mahabat Khan was no diplomat while Nur Jahan was quite cunning. Very soon, he found the circumstances out of control.
While the royal party was camped in Kabul, there was a quarrel between the royal soldiers and the Rajput soldiers of Mahabat Khan. Mahabat Khan succeeded in suppressing the opposition of the royal soldiers but he lost many soldiers of his own and also his popularity among the soldiers in general.
While returning from Kabul, near the fort of Rohtasgarh, Mahabat Khan was forced to agree that the Emperor would personally inspect the morning parade of the soldiers. Jahangir took up the command of the army at the time of inspection and ordered Mahabat Khan to leave the camp. Mahabat Khan who had failed to understand the game of Nur Jahan and Jahangir and had kept his soldiers away from the royal soldiers was left with no option but to obey the command of the Emperor.
Had he decided to fight the Emperor at that time, it would have amounted to an open revolt for which he was neither prepared nor left with power to make it a success. Mahabat Khan, therefore, fled towards Thatta. He took away with him the sons of Asaf Khan and prince Daniyal as hostages though returned them as soon as he felt secured. Mahabat Khan then joined the ranks of Shah Jahan who welcomed him in his camp.
Thus, ended the revolt of Mahabat Khan. In fact, it was not a revolt in the true sense. He respected both the Emperor and Begum Nur Jahan while they were his prisoners. Mahabat Khan was not prepared to do anything against the person and authority of Jahangir.
In that case, his object could be served only by diplomatic skill which he totally lacked. Nur Jahan who was more skillful in the game of diplomacy, therefore, succeeded against him and brought about the failure of his scheme.